The movie's catalyst is a rifle, which is sold to a Moroccan farmer who intends to use it to scare away jackals. He entrusts the rifle to his two sons who debate how far the rifle can shoot. One of the boys takes aim at a tour bus and fires, hitting a tourist named Susan (Cate Blanchett) - setting off the movie's first story.
Susan is on vacation with her husband, Richard (Brad Pitt). It is obvious that the couple's relationship is troubled and that there is an unstated uneasiness between the two. Susan is shot in the shoulder and immediately rushed to the hospital. At this point, Richard calls Amelia, a Mexican-born nanny, and asks that she watch he and Susan's kids a little longer - setting up the second story.
Amelia is in a bit of a bind herself. Her son is about to get married in Mexico and she can't find someone to take her place while she makes the trip. She instead decides to take them along with her, only to run into trouble on the way back.
The final story is the most interesting, but also one that is the farthest removed from the other two. Set in Japan, it centers on Cheiko (Rinko Kikuchi), a deaf-mute who is struggling to fit in with her society as well as dealing with her father who is still grieving over his wife's suicide.
Babel's pacing follows films like Syriana and Crash, with several plotlines that end up connecting into one larger story. Where Babel differs in its approach is that it doesn't try to judge any of the characters or present viewers with a moral in the end. The story is purely character-driven, which ends up being one of its problems since few of the actors live up to their potential. Brad Pitt does an okay job, though I've seen him do better. Kikuchi puts in the best performance - especially since she gets most of her feelings across with simple looks. My one contention with the plotline is that, although it is interesting, the Japanese plotline really doesn't seem to fit into the overall story all that well.
Although the Collector's Edition comes on two discs, there isn't much in the way of extras. The first disc contains the movie while the second plays home to a lengthy documentary called "Common Ground: Under Construction." The documentary is as close as the movie gets to featuring commentary from the director, and is more of a behind the scenes work than anything else.
Though not one of the best movies of this type, Babel is still enjoyable if you like mutli-layered, character-driven stories.